Culture of Collaboration Will Sustain Pandemic Recovery

Image credit: iStockphoto/alphaspirit

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged government agencies to collaborate, communicate, and innovate rapidly. As markets around the region begin to recover, government IT leaders who have become more adept at navigating the heightened expectations and increased demand for their digital services have a unique opportunity. They can build resilience into the processes, technology, and outcomes required to outlast the disruptions they now face and the ones to come.

Underpinning the continued pressure to innovate and produce better code faster are the unique challenges faced by the increased imperatives for security, regulatory compliance, and procurement. Many agencies in the region are transitioning fully to DevSecOps to bring traditionally siloed developers, operations, and security teams together to speed up their software innovation cycle times.

Organizations making the transition often witness dramatic cultural shifts on the engineering team. An IDC survey in 2019 found that internal culture and training issues remained the biggest obstacles to wholesale DevOps adoption in APAC.

To realize the benefits of faster, better, more secure applications, public sector technology leaders must shift teams to fully adopt the culture of DevSecOps and embrace the spirit of continuous improvement, supported by the right technology. By realigning teams and their work — breaking down silos, eliminating handoffs, and incorporating security into the development process — enterprises empower those teams to get the needed capabilities out the door quickly.

GitLab’s 2020 DevSecOps Survey revealed that silos between teams and responsibilities can’t be tolerated in the new world anymore. There also continues to be an apparent disconnect between developers and security teams, with uncertainty about who should be responsible for security efforts.

Respondents had many strong reasons to do DevSecOps, including code quality, faster time to market, and happier developers.

Change the culture

Deliberately change your culture. Allow teams to fail, promote experimentation, empower people to find the right ways to work together, provide management instruction, and make the ‘right’ path for your people the easy path to follow.

Changing the culture is a very conscious and deliberate undertaking, requiring top-down leadership sponsorship on larger initiatives that push the enterprise forward. Provide teams the ability to fail and to learn that failures can actually often be successes. Empower them to discover how they fit, what tools support team objectives, the right communication structure for their teams, and how they can work properly to meet the speed and quality goals.

Empower communication

Adopt technology that allows real-time, centralized communication and collaboration. Actively break down silos and eliminate sequential and friction-fraught development, ops, and security handoffs to lay the groundwork for better, faster, and less painful application delivery. Focus on your communications technology: change from using static, inefficient email as your primary communication tool and start to leverage existing technology or adopt new technology that enables real-time, mission-based collaboration to transcend silos of people, projects, and contracts.

Lead the change

Drive leadership-led change based on a mission. Connecting goals and objectives to how these changes will impact your specific mission (e.g., getting a capability out faster, security, scalability, etc.).

An effective cultural change requires leadership to provide goals and objectives, and to paint a picture that helps the teams see “why,” enabling an environment for better collaboration that can improve their citizens’ engagement and experience.

●      Focus on what capability you want to deliver at an enterprise level (i.e., “we need to get a capability out faster”, “we need to be more secure”, “we need to be able to scale development”) to establish the ‘why.’

●      As your team starts to implement changes and apply some of their learnings, they will make mistakes. You can tell them about what it looks like to go fast, but it requires a maturity gained through experience to get there in reality.

●      Create management instructions or stories. This could look like an Agile policy, but it might also be a message that incentivizes and empowers people and teams. Then iterate and create the next management instruction, providing a carrot for development teams and operators if they follow specific best practices.

Focus on people

Understand that change is terrifying for most people. Your teams will be concerned that the changes — including new technology and automation — will cause them to be displaced. They must understand that reality is precisely the opposite. Instead, they will now be freed up to do higher-level, more exciting work.

Most teams use this opportunity to “re-mission” or “rebrand” their workforce, leveraging team members’ skillsets in fresh, new areas, which leads some internal critics to become strong champions for your changes because of what they learn. These champions then continue to advance the transformation as they contribute their experience and learnings to influence processes and policies in a thoughtful, less risky manner than outside technologists or those without hands-on experience ever could.

Unlocking the human potential

People will continue to be the core of your transformation journey. Unlock the human potential of your operators, users, and other stakeholders by enabling them to come together so they can innovate faster and more collaboratively. Collaboration is currently a challenge for many of today’s organizations because there are so many different silos for the way people work—in separate systems and in other places.

Already we are seeing evidence of the impact of the current crisis around a changed mindset and focus on digital transformation in governments. The public sector now has the opportunity to lay the right foundation to solve tomorrow’s problems by leveraging technology that ensures people can work together to effectively transform and deliver value faster.

Anthony McMahon, GitLab’s APAC regional director, authored this article. He has over 18 years’ experience in the technology industry in Asia, previously at SAP and HP.  GitLab was recently cited as a Strong Performer in the Forrester Continuous Delivery and Release Automation (CDRA) report for Q2 2020.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CDOTrends. Image credit: iStockphoto/alphaspirit